Blazer man puts millions into organic growth plan

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The Independent Online

The entrepreneur who started the Racing Green and Blazer clothing chains is among a group of investors who plan to turn Planet Organic, Britain's first organic supermarket retailer, into a national chain after pumping millions of pounds into the business.

David Krantz, who also helped to build Space.NK into a global beauty brand before selling it to Seattle-based Manzanita Capital, has taken a controlling stake in Planet Organic along with his business partners Alan Smith and Colin Fenn. The exact amount they paid was not disclosed but is understood to be several millions of pounds.

Planet Organic, which was started by Renee Elliott in 1995, will open a further four stores in the next two years in and around London, more than doubling in size. The group, which has annual sales of about £10m and is profitable, is targeting convenience store-sized sites of around 5,000 sq ft.

Ms Elliott, an American who has advised the Government on GM issues, said: "My mission is to create health in the community by making organic mainstream. To do that we need more stores."

She hopes to eventually have at least 20 stores within the M25 and to expand the brand into cities such as Cambridge, Brighton, Leeds and Oxford.

Her husband, Brian, is the chain's managing director and the pair still have a "substantial" shareholding.

Mr Krantz, an existing investor, took up new shares in the company after it failed to secure venture capital funding. He made his high street name in the 1980s and 1990s, first by selling the Blazer menswear chain to Storehouse for £5m and then by netting £19m from the sale of Racing Green, the mail order and stores group, to Burton for £19m.

He said Planet Organic sold the largest range of organic lines, around 4,000, of any shop in the UK. This will be dwarfed by the range on offer by Whole Foods Market, when the US natural foods giant opens its first store in the UK next spring, but Mr Krantz said he was not worried by the competition. "They seem to like big stores and I like small ones." He added that supply of organic produce, which is under pressure as more supermarkets move into the market, was "more likely to be a problem for the larger players than the small ones".

The organic food market is growing at 30 per cent a year and was worth £1.6bn last year according to figures from the Soil Association, which certifies produce for sale. In the last few months all of the country's biggest supermarkets have relaunched new organic ranges in an attempt to capture a bigger share of the market.

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